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Fairport-E.Rochester Post
  • Answering the call: Behind the scenes at Perinton Volunteer Ambulance

  • Donna Hart remembers the first time she helped save a life.



    She had just become a certified EMT and it was one of her first times riding on a call with Perinton Ambulance. The victim was a man who’d experienced a cardiac arrest, and Hart was doing chest compresssions as her team worked to revive him.



    Today, her eyes widen as she tells the story.

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  • Donna Hart remembers the first time she helped save a life.
    She had just become a certified EMT and it was one of her first times riding on a call with Perinton Ambulance. The victim was a man who’d experienced a cardiac arrest, and Hart was doing chest compresssions as her team worked to revive him.
    Today, her eyes widen as she tells the story.
    “We actually got a heartbeat back before we got to the hospital,” she said. “I was hooked because we actually made a difference ... Those are the calls you kind of live for.”
    The call for help
    Hart is now the president of the Perinton Volunteer Ambulance Corps, which answers the call for emergencies every day. Staffed by 114 paid and volunteer members, its headquarters on Turk Hill Road is buzzing with activity around the clock.
    In 2012, the corps received its highest number of calls ever at 4,127. Hart said this number seems to increase each year, making the need for an emergency response team more needed than ever.
    What kind of calls do they receive on a regular basis? According to Jon LeRoy, director of training for the PVAC, the most common calls are for cardiac and respiratory distress, followed by falls.
    The majority of ambulance visits, approximately 75 percent, result in a trip to the hospital, he said. Many times, this saves a patient’s life before it’s too late.
    Why they do it
    Sometimes, patients and their families express their thanks for helping their loved one. Hart remembers complete strangers stopping her in Wegmans to say thank you.
    “People would come up to me and thank and give me updates on patients,” she said. “It’s hard to remember because (when you’re treating someone) you’re concentrating on the patient and don’t always remember their family ... but that part is very rewarding when they give you some feedback.”
    But that’s not always the case, said LeRoy.
    “We don’t get thanks a lot, and that’s okay,” he said. “Most of us don’t want to be in this job to get thanks — we do this because we want to put our knowledge, our thoughts (and) our ability to care and difference. We want to put that to work for the community.”
    LeRoy’s own story goes beyond that, however. As a kid, he watched as his 8-year-old brother was hit by car while crossing the street in Sodus, NY. The boy flew above the hood of the car, his bike dragged underneath.
    At his worst moment, LeRoy said the outpouring of support from the EMS community changed his life.
    “Pretty much everybody was affiliated with the fire department or ambulance corps (and) everybody came out to help.”
    Page 2 of 2 - The boy, who was in the hospital for a month after the accident, is now 32, and lives in Georgia with his family.
    “At that point, I knew I wanted to follow and do this,” said LeRoy.
    Helping train the next wave of emergency responders is what excites him about the future.
    “We really are working on the next generation now. It’s a very enthusiastic generation and I think they’re going to see a lot of cool stuff.”
    Team effort
    Members can start training to become a dispatcher as young as 16, but EMTs must be 18 to become certified. The staff is a mix of teens, adults and retirees who each fill a specific role in the 24-7 agency.
    Dispatchers, who receive emergency calls from 911, is the most common role for volunteers, but it’s also the most difficult to fill, Hart said. Many dispatchers are former road crews who want to stay involved in some capacity.
    While the excitement of working as an EMT or paramedic tends to draw more rookie members, it’s not uncommon for them to let their certification expire due to the physical and emotional stress that comes with the job.
    Hart said the PVAC, which is constantly looking for new members, is specifically looking to boost its medic and driver personnell.
    One thing is certain: When the buzzer sounds for a new call, someone will answer.
    Last year, Perinton answered an impressive 97 percent of calls within 10 minutes (the other 3 percent were answered by backup agencies in Monroe County through a mutual aid agreement).
    The agency was named the 2012 Monroe-Livingston Regional EMS Council’s Agency of the Year for its community education work, including free CPR training for teens and adults, blood pressure screenings, and more.
    The PVAC is constantly seeking new members.
    “We can’t work without each other,” said LeRoy. “There’s a role for everybody.”
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